The Public Works Department offers a water education program centered on watersheds and the water treatment process from Mt. Baker to Bellingham Bay. The curriculum is designed for 5th grade students. Bellingham Water School focuses on: Lake Whatcom and its watershed, stormwater pollution and prevention, water treatment and distribution, and wastewater collection and treatment.
Part I - Classroom Visit (1 hour)
Students receive their Bellingham Water School science journal and are introduced to watersheds and our connection to the water cycle. They will work in small groups to discover how watersheds collect water through a hands-on model and how pollution can move within a watershed. City educators prepare them for the field trip focusing on Lake Whatcom, the City of Bellingham's drinking water source.
Part II - Videos and Mapping Activities (1 hour)
Prior to the field trip, students view the video "Go with the Flow" to introduce them to Bellingham's water system, previewing what they will experience on their field trip. They also complete a Lake Whatcom mapping activity and determine into which watershed their neighborhood and school belong.
Part III - Field Trip Experience (4 Hours)
Students meet City educators at Lake Whatcom where the class will break into small groups to observe the Lake Whatcom Watershed and collect a water sample. The class will walk from Bloedel Donovan Park to Whatcom Falls Park, following the path of the City's drinking water. On the way they learn about potential pollutants that may enter the lake through stormwater runoff which the City has to filter out before distributing drinking water to residents. Students will then work in small groups to engineer water filtration systems to remove as much modeled pollution out of their water sample as possible following the Next Generation Science Standards' Engineering Practices model. The class will then get a tour of the Water Treatment Plant to see how the City filters and treats Bellingham's drinking water. The final activity, depending on time, is a microscope lab where students will observe common algae species found in Lake Whatcom.
Part IV - Classroom Pollution Investigations and Sharing Learning
Students watch the video "Lost in (Puget) Sound". An optional in-class extension is for the students to research one local stormwater pollutant and present their findings to their classmates with an emphasis on what they can do to prevent this pollutant from entering the stormwater system. Stormwater pollutants include oil and gas, fertilizer, pesticides, pet waste, phosphorus, sediment, litter, and soap. There are two optional homework assignments to better understand each student's direct impact to water consumption and share what the student has learned in Water School at home.
Part V - Post Trip Classroom Visit (1 hour)
A City educator comes to the classroom one final time to review the three water systems in Bellingham; drinking water, wastewater, and stormwater. The classroom will participate in a scientific investigation around stormwater runoff focusing on the scientific procedures of an investigation. The unit will conclude with students receiving a shower timer to help them achieve their water conservation goals.